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The academic librarian as a supervisor: Intervening in the student’s research process Dr. Maria-Carme Torras, senior academic librarian University of Bergen.

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Presentation on theme: "The academic librarian as a supervisor: Intervening in the student’s research process Dr. Maria-Carme Torras, senior academic librarian University of Bergen."— Presentation transcript:

1 The academic librarian as a supervisor: Intervening in the student’s research process Dr. Maria-Carme Torras, senior academic librarian University of Bergen Library, Norway

2 How can the academic librarian’s supervision best support the postgraduate student’s research process? Student challenges A model of library supervision to extend the educational role of the academic librarian

3 Student challenges Narrowing down a research question from a general topic Dealing with large amounts of available sources / selecting what to read Evaluating information analytically and critically Using terminology correctly Using information creatively, i.e. transforming it into own knowledge which is communicated in the student’s work Structuring the text in a logical way Constructing and supporting arguments Expressing own views and supporting them Drawing conclusions Using information ethically Referencing (paraphrasing, using sources to support arguments, documenting sources) (Dysthe et al., 2000; Kulthau, 2004)

4 The psychological dimension Uncertainty, confusion, frustration, anxiety at different research stages (e.g. Kuhlthau, 2004; Cavallin, 2006; Dysthe, 2006) Uncertainty as part and parcel of the research process, but may hinder academic progress or lead to writer’s block. How can the student be assisted to tackle uncertainty?

5 Traditional supervision - humanities and social sciences Academic supervisor Student Academic librarian ’ad hoc’ supervision (Handal & Lauvås, 2006)

6 An alternative supervision constellation Fellow students Academic supervisor Student Academic librarian (Torras & Sætre, forthcoming)

7 Supervision tandem: academic supervisor & academic librarian Formalising the relationship ’Who does what and what do we do together?’ What kind of intervention should the academic librarian have in the student’s research process?

8 Supervision tandem Academic supervisor Primary supervisor Product and process supervisor Academic librarian Secondary supervisor (H&L,2006) Process supervisor (H&L,2006) Counsellor (Kuhlthau, 2004)

9 The academic librarian as a secondary supervisor Complementary but formalised role. A resource person offering advice and assistance in her particular area of expertise. The academic librarian –an expert in matters concerning info search and exploitation –academic qualifications in a certain discipline.

10 The academic librarian as a process supervisor guides and encourages S to move on in her research process over time process intervention is especially important at initial stages of research process –uncertainty –narrowing down a research question –obtaining reasonable overview of the literature

11 The academic librarian as a process supervisor focuses on texts for thinking (Dysthe et al., 2000) –process-oriented. Texts for learning –private, informal and exploratory (mindmapping, brainstorming) –stimulate and clarify thoughts and ideas about a topic –tool for diagnosing where S is and for enabling her to move onto the next phase does not focus on texts for presentation (final drafts and thesis and their quality) –product-oriented (reader, assessment) –reflect critical-analytical thinking

12 The academic librarian as a counsellor The info. searching process is ‘highly individual, creative, and personal’ (Kuhlthau, 2004, p. 119). S and L have a dialogue over time. L assists S in her development of a research question, choice of a search strategy and identification of appropriate sources at the different stages of her (re)search process. L guides S through the creative process of constructing meaning, that is, of seeking certainty and clarity in her academic work. As opposed to source-oriented intervention (identifier)

13 The academic librarian as a counsellor Non-controlling supervision style (Clark & Fry’s 1992 writing coach). S decides on what the supervision session will be about S talks, L listens, asks questions and gives positive feedback L formulates ideas, suggestions and advice as questions (Dysthe et al., 2000) L encourages S to express her own thoughts, problems and alternatives L does not interrupt the student to impose her own ideas L takes notes or records the session for S

14 An alternative supervision constellation Fellow students Academic supervisor Student Academic librarian (Torras & Sætre, forthcoming)

15 Learning as a social practice: Masters and apprentices at the academic library Kvale’s (1997) research apprenticeship: a model for organised group supervision at the library Hands-on workshops –Participating in communities of practice Dialogue Scaffolding Socialisation into the discipline –Learning by doing Acquire IL by doing IL related activities based on own work –Evaluation through practice –Acquiring a professional identity, e.g. research ethics in using information

16 Metacommunication about supervision It should include the academic librarian Explicitly discussing supervision expectations, duties and strategies with S and AS will help delimit L’s supervisory roles in a way which satisfies all. –defining the partnership –reflecting on a multiplicity of supervisory roles Lack of metacommunication can have unfortunate consequences. –S might receive conflicting feedback from the AS and L –Both library and faculty staff might feel that librarians are treading on ‘faculty territory’

17 Field-testing the model Planning a pilot project: organised individual and group supervision Challenges –Following up S throughout the process –Making organised group supervision relevant to S –Defining how their AS-L tandem is to share the supervisory role in practice. –Costs

18 Rewards -S will be supported better in their research process -S’s acquisition of complex intellectual skills will be more comprehensive. -AS will be partially or even totally relieved of some tasks. -For L: -more adequate user education and contact with users -better insight into collection development needs, as she will be more aware of faculty research areas. -professionalisation of L’s educational role.

19 References Cavallin, C. (2006) Gruppebasert veiledning med én veileder i masterstudier. In: Dysthe, O. & Samara, A. eds. Forskningsveiledning på master- og doktorgradsnivå. Oslo, Abstrakt forlag, pp Clark, R.P. & Fry, D. (1992) Coaching writers. Editors and reporters working together. New York, St. Martin’s press. Dysthe, O. (2006) Rettleiaren som lærar, partnar eller meister?. In: Dysthe, O. & Samara, A. eds. Forskningsveiledning på master- og doktorgradsnivå. Oslo, Abstrakt forlag, pp Dysthe, O., Hertzberg, F. & Hoel, T.L. (2000) Skrive for å lære. Skriving i høyere utdanning. Oslo, Abstrakt forlag. Handal, G. & Lauvås, P. (2006) Forskningsveilederen. Oslo, Cappelen. Kuhlthau, C.C. (2004) Seeking meaning. A process approach to library and information services. 2nd edition. Westport, Libraries Unlimited. Kvale, S. (1997) Research apprenticeship. Nordisk pedagogik, 17 (3), pp Torras, M.C. & Sætre, T. P. (forthcoming) Information literacy education: A process- oriented approach. Professionalising the pedagogical role of academic libraries. Oxford, Chandos.


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